Scene 22

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In the depth of night Lobo is jolted to consciousness by the sound of a pack of hunting dogs barking in the distance. He was weary. Bone tired. He rouses himself. He has got to get going before they get any closer. Catch his scent. He forces himself awake and stumbles along river bank. Making his way carefully across the river in the moonlight, he heads through woods into the swampy marsh. The brilliant light overhead casts long, ominous shadows through the dense canopy. The screeching orchestra of woodland creatures gives him an eerie sensation.

After trudging through the wilderness hell for what seemed like an eternity, Lobo felt safe to reemerge from the marshes back to the relative civilization of the winding river and ever faithful railroad tracks.  It must have been hours since he heard the faint cry of the hounds fade completely. He allowed himself the luxury of climbing up the embankment and treading down the hewn path created by the IRTC- Intercontinental Railroad and Transportation Corporation.

Lobo always felt a strange affinity toward trains. Maybe one of his oriental ancestors helped build them. Perhaps he died under the cruel hand of the Eastern Railroad Barons that etched their will and ambition across the plains of America over 100 years ago. As Lobo was meandering in his imagination, trying to keep his mind off his pain and exhaustion, he spotted a flickering fire a mile or so beyond. He wondered who could possibly be camping this far out. Could it be a search party? Or was it just some Hobos or hunters or just campers?  He cautiously creeps up through the woods to get a closer look. Satisfied that the team of 3 older gentlemen were definitely not cops, he moved in. Yea, he could see now, just Hobos trying to stay warm in the damp night, huddled around the fire.

Since they looked like they didn’t present any imminent threat… and since he was wet, and tired and hungry with cuts all over the exposed parts of his body from running through the undergrowth… He decided to chance it. He proceeded slowly. When you approach a strange dog, it’s best to remain calm and quiet… squat down and hold out the back of your hand. Let the dog sniff it and check you out first. He took similar tact in advancing toward the vagrants. He moved to the edge of the clearing, within reach of the fire glow… so they could see his face. They appeared a little suspicious at first. They studied him wordlessly with a tinge of numbed indifference. They were all drinking some type of cheap booze. Boones Farm Apple Wine, Strawberry Ripple, A quart sized bottle of some generic beer. If anything they seemed to hold Medicinal Rot Gut closer as if to protect it jealously.

Finally, what appeared to be the elder spokesman of the group invited Lobo over to the fire to keep warm. Magnanimously he offers to share a sip of his cherished nectar. Lobo questions off hand, “You know what time the train is coming?” The leathery faced man in his fifties stared blankly at the fire, “Little after dawn. Don’t rightly know how long that would be though.” He takes another swig and offers again to pass it back to Lobo. “Here, you want some?” Lobo hesitates, looking longingly at the bottle. He hadn’t wanted a drink this bad in a long, long time. He certainly deserved it after all he had been through. He gestures a courteous refusal, “Thanks anyway.” This seems curious to the man. What kind of man would refuse the sweet warmth of alcohol on a dreary night such as this?

The Hobo considers Lobo intently. “Looks like you had rough night. Pretty bad shape there…” Hobo checks him out between gulps. Is definitely street smart. “What your name?” When Lobo doesn’t respond, he continues, “Mine’s Tom. This here’s Lester and Frank.” Motioning over to his comrades. Lester smiles broadly. Teeth are all yellow or missing. Frank just rocks back and forth cradling his bottle, lost in another world or at least numb to the present one. “What did you say your name was?” Lobo is wary, “I didn’t.” He unconsciously scans the trees for potential danger. Tom backs off but ponders, “Yea, I agree… What’s in a name really? That which we call a rose by any other name.”

Some people shut down when they get drunk, while other become excited and talkative. Lobo preferred the quiet ones. Tom takes a long drink and offers it to Lobo again. This time Lobo just shakes his head uncomfortably. Tom astutely observes, “Listen, I don’t care where you goin’ or what you’re runnin’ from. Whatever… We’re all either chasing something or running away from something. Don’t much matter which. From whatever or to whatever… It’s your business.” Lobo relaxes. He’s just being paranoid. This guy seems o.k. Knows the score. No use being an ass hole about it. He offers, “Lobo.” Tom squints, “Say what?” Lobo repeats, “Lobo’s my name.”

Tom takes it in stride and rambles on. “So how about you… You just runnin’ away or headin’ for someplace in particular?” Lobo reflects, “Well, I thought I was through running. Landed someplace I figured to stay a while… but I guess I was mistaken.” There is noticeable disappointment in Lobo’s voice. Apparent even to a drunk Hobo. Although such deep philosophizing made Tom especially thirstily so that he guzzles the remainder of his bottle. He dismisses the complex subject, “Sure sounds confusing.” Lobo agrees, “Yea, don’t matter anyway.” He grabs another handful of sticks and tosses them on the fire.

Lobo hears a far away rumbling of cracking branches. His face registers his concern. He quickly rises from his leisurely perch. Tom notes anxiety and comments, “Not police… they never bother us here. Besides, they’re too lazy to make the trip… Probably just a stray animal. Lobo is not comforted. He searches for a make shift weapon and ducks behind a cluster of trees opposite the direction of the noise.

Hobo Tom discerns Lobo is correct, there is someone approaching. He gestures to his buddies to keep cool and play along.  The crunching sound guy grows louder and more distinct. Someone is definitely clamoring through the woods toward them. From the sound of it, a stout fellow too. The hobos try to act nonchalant, staring at the fire and drinking. Frank maintains his rocking vigil. A big black man in a red hunter’s vest emerges. His presence is far more threatening than Lobo thin, wirey frame. Yet, they pay him no mind. The stranger checks it the surroundings as if looking for clues. He scrutinizes the trio. Lester smiles nervously. He can tell they’re hiding something. “You seen an oriental fellow lately? ½ breed. About 5’8”. Mid thirties?” Tom looks distinctively uncomfortable. He just shrugs. He apprehensively takes a drink from another bottle. “No one here but who you see.” The stranger towers over the frail Hobo, “You sure you ain’t seen anybody, old man?” Tom’s hand is shaking as he stutters, “Like I… I said, I didn’t…”

Lobo watches the scene from his refuge behind the trees. He can’t see the intruder’s face but can smell trouble. Slowly Lobo circles around behind the Black fellow. Could be a scout for the search party. He damn sure wasn’t another Hobo. Don’t know who else but a cop would be roaming around in the woods at this time of night. Flickering flames illuminate the Black man’s face as he interrogates the small gypsy band. As Lobo closes in on his prey, raising the branch defensively and prepares to strike, a small, dry branch snaps under the weight of his clumsy foot.

The huge specter booms, “You never were very much of a sneak. So you are here. I had a feeling…” Lobo lets down his guard. Tosses the branch aside. Relaxes. Lobo is astonished and delighted, “MO! Jesus, is really you?” Mohammed turns to face him. “Hey Lobo!”. They embrace. Lobo remarks, “How in the heck did you find me?” Mo sneers confidently, “Tracking you wasn’t hard… I went to the carnival to look you up and walked into hornets nest! Said you we’re on the run.” Lobo can’t believe his eyes. His friend Mo, right here in front of him! “Yea so… but how’d you find me here?” Mo slaps his back as they proceed back within the circle of heat. “Hey, we were cell mates for almost 6 years… You learn to know how a guy thinks. I figured you’d have sense enough to stay off the main roads… head for the tracks, travel south as fast as you could… Hell, I just put myself in your shoes and walked here.” Lobo shakes his head in amazement. “I can’t believe you’re really here!” Hobo still look spooked. Lobo makes the introductions, “Mo, meet my friend… Ah, what was your name? Tom perks up, “Tom.” Lobo recounts, Yea, Tom.” They shake hands vigorously. The hobos are all greatly relieved that there isn’t going to be any trouble. All except Frank that is… through the entire drama he kept rocking and drinking at a routine pace. Mo greets them all heartily before returning his attention to his friend. They exchange worried glances as they take their seats by the fireside.

Lobo recounts in a subdued voice, “Sounds like you got yourself into a real pile of shit this time. Lobo casts a gaze at the Hobos to confirm that they are remaining oblivious to their conversation. Tom, nearest to duo takes the hint, “Yea, that’s O.K… You guys catch up on old times, I need to take wiz anyway. He wanders out into the woods to relieve himself before returning to the far side of the camp. Lester falls over, finally passed out in an intoxicated stupor. Frank successfully rocked to sleep.

Mo goes on, “Yea… Police are swarming all over the place, looking for you… Man! They’re accusin’ you of everything but fucking crippled old ladies in the ass in public.” They laugh. It’s nice to have a respite from the tension. Lobo celebrate the humor. “I thought prison was bad. There at least you knew who your enemies were and could see a con coming a mile away…” Mo becomes serious, “A set-up huh? So why did you let yourself be suckered? That’s certainly not the Lobo I know.”

Lobo rehearses his story as he sparks ascend into the dark sky. “There was this kid…” Mo interjects, “Yea, the one the police say you molested.” Lobo gasps, “They what! That’s the biggest crock of shit I ever heard.”  Mo shares more bad news, “They also got you for drugs… Felony theft, for Heisting a shit load of money. Assault with intent to kill… Shall I go on?”

Lobo is dumbfounded, “Jesus, I can’t believe those fuckers!” Mo adds, “I hear they’re even trying to blame you for some accident where several people got killed?” After his initial flurry of rage, Lobo settles down. He suddenly looks very old and very sad. They sit together by the fire sharing the moment of trial.

Mo breaks the silence. “So what’s you and this kid got going? You mentioned him in your letter… Now, they’re trying to hang this thing on you… What gives?” Lobo’s reply betrays the real source of his melancholy, “Nothing really… I thought I could make a difference. Like you did for me.” Mo speaks compassionately but truthfully, “You can’t make it happen, Lobo. You just got to let it happen and be ready when an opportunity comes… It’s about God making it happen, not us.” Lobo throws another couple of logs on the fire to keep it stoked. “Yea, well. I guess I fucked things up pretty good. I pushed too hard. Thought I could change the system.” Mo observes, “Yea, you were always a little overly zealous. Good heart, stupid head.” Lobo confesses remorsefully, “Yea, well I thought I could trust this kid… told him the whole deal… and he squealed. Brought down all this shit on my head.” Lobo is bitter and sad over Lindsay’s betrayal. Mo confronts him, “Who brought down what, where? Lobo is offended by the comment, “Hey, don’t preach at me. Did you look me up just to knock me around?” Mo relents, “No, I’m sorry… So, this kid got to you , huh?” Lobo hurt and bitterness spills out, “Yea, He is just like I was. I thought that I could, well…” Mo finishes Lobo’s thought, “that you could redo your past. Make it right.” Lobo assents, “Sure, I guess.” Mo nods his heads and reflects on the situation. “So now what?” Lobo shrugs, “Don’t know yet. Still trying to figure that one out.”

Lobo ascends from his gloomy mood to consider his friend, “So how about you? How did you get out? You weren’t supposed to get out for another couple of years! Even if you were able to get a favorable report from the parole board! Which given your track record, wouldn’t be an easy task.”  Mo chuckles, “Politics!” Since I’ve been in the joint, a lot of my panther brother’s been taking a lot of heat. The cops offed so many of ‘em, that even the politicians are starting to turn on them. So they’re trying to make up for it by letting a few of us out for show. Turned it into a regular “press event.” Lobo listens intently to Mo’s sullen story. “Wow, that’s heavy. God works in weird ways, for sure.”

Mo displays his own bitterness as he explains, “They killed over 50 of us this year alone. Did in one brother just last week. Cops surrounded a house and riddled the place with bullets. Broke in and retired the leader while he slept. The brothers didn’t fire one fucking shot! Goddamned pigs… So in a way, my freedom was bought by their blood.” Lobo is moved. “Shit! That’s awful, man. I’m sorry to hear…” Lobo is at a loss for words. For a second time, they sit in silence… side by side beside the crackling fire. Most times the best words are thus spoken.

Lobo sighs deeply and changes the subject, “So where you heading from here?” Mo gazes into an imaginary horizon. “Back up to Detroit.

That’s where the action is. I think I can do ‘the cause’ some good there… Was just stopping to see you. Thought if you don’t have a permanent gig you were into, you might want to go with me.” Lobo looks down thought-fully. Mo can tell from his reaction the answer. “But I can see you got some unfinished business to attend to…” Lobo struggles with Mo’s deduction, “No, It’s not that. I would like to. It’s just that…” Hangs his head. Lobo isn’t able to come to the same conclusion as quickly. He needs time to sift through his conflicting emotions to find his answer.

Mo glances at his watch. “Hmm… looks like you got a few hours to figure it out, before the train comes. I think I’m going to grab a couple of hours of shut eye…” Mo starts to get up but Lobo prevents him. Mo can tell from the grave expression that he’s contemplating a life and death issue. “What!?” Lobo takes a deep breath. “I think I have to go back there.” Mo sits down heavily. “Lobo… If you go back, you’ll loose everything. I told you a long time ago… you can’t fight the system. Let it go!” Lobo stings Mo, “Yea, like you did?” Mo acknowledges the rebuke. “O.K. Point taken… But that was different.”

Lobo digs in, “I’m not trying to change the system. Just maybe lend a helping hand to one or two people drowning in the dark.” Mo pontificates,   “Always the crusader, aren’t you! When are you going to learn to tend your own damn garden.” Lobo challenges him heatedly, “You should talk!” Mo argues more urgently. “Yea, but look where it got me. Prison, doing 8 years!” Lobo persists, “Besides, how is it any different. Then or now? Then… You were trying to overthrow ‘the oppressive victimization of Black Americans, by force if necessary’. Now… you’re heading back up to Detroit to pick up where you left off!” Lobo need offer no further defense. He knows Mo knows that he is right.

Mo knows he can’t win. In fact, Lobo is championing a cause in the same spirit that Mo possesses. It was one of the strong bonds that united their hearts in mutual respect. Like confidants and warriors in a common battle. It’s just that He loved Lobo and was afraid for him. Afraid that zeal and commitment would cost him his very life this time. Silence.

Mo resigns himself to the facts. He is saddened mostly by the reality that he and his friend are to part company in a few short hours… perhaps forever. At least as long as they both shall live. He concedes, “You’re right, Lobo.” He sighs looking into the red hot embers and smoldering flame. “We must follow the path that burns in hearts. It is God’s voice. Where ever it leads. And whatever may become of us. To do so, is being a man.”

They rise together and exchange an impassioned hug and pats on the back.  Mo offers, “We should both try to get a couple of hours sleep.” Lobo assents, “Yea, sure.” His mind already wrestling with the potential ramifications of the tentative decision he just made. Back into the fiery furnace. Maybe Mo was right the first time. Save his skin to fight again another day. Besides, Lindsay obviously didn’t appreciate his help. He betrayed him. And he had no intention or desire of returning to the joint.

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